In our century
The first edition of The American City, September 1909, included an address by Henry S. Curtis, vice president of the Playground Association of America (now the National Recreation and Parks Association), that summarized the playground movement in America, the late 19th and early 20th century trend of cities establishing and managing playgrounds. According to the article, the trend began after New York took over management of the few privately created playgrounds in its city and began establishing more. An association survey found that 177 cities maintained playgrounds in 1908, compared to 90 the year before.
“When the playgrounds were first started, the idea in the minds of the promoters was to keep children off the streets and away from their physical and moral dangers; but as time has gone on, the movement has taken up a series of positive physical and social ideas,” Curtis stated. Those included the benefits of keeping children in the open air to treat tuberculosis; helping them develop physical strength, teamwork, loyalty and industriousness; and experiencing a sense of joy.
Playgrounds began as private philanthropy by women’s clubs and the YMCA, and various community members contributed to their construction and program development. Gradually, cities acquired the playgrounds and devoted money to their upkeep. Chicago, for instance spent $11 million on small parks and playgrounds from 1905-1909, New York spent $15 million 1899-1909, and Boston spent $4 million on 200 acres of playgrounds in that time.
Previous “In our century” Stories
- In our century – September 1909
Women embrace public causes, work to improve their communities and expand their societal roles.
- In our century – March 1910
Cities develop methods, mechanisms and regulations for residential solid waste collection and disposal.
- In our century – November 1909
Occupancy laws and social workers emerge in the early 1900s to clean up inner-city neighborhoods.
- The way we were
Publisher’s son remembers American City & County‘s roots.